In the normal scheme of things, parents and grandparents take care of children when they’re sick or need help or sustenance. But in well over a million American families, this pattern is reversed, with children as young as 8, 9 or 10 partly or fully responsible for the welfare of adults or siblings they live with.
They may have to shop, prepare meals, clean house, do the laundry and tend to the hygienic needs of family members unable to care for themselves.
In 2006, Dr. Siskowski started the Caregiving Youth Project, dedicated to helping young caregivers of ill, elderly or disabled family members. With support from grants and private donations her organization, now called the American Association of Caregiving Youth, works with school districts to identify children who need help navigating the competing demands of caregiving and school and still find some time to be a child.
As many as 1.4 million American children from ages 8 to 18 care for a parent, grandparent or sibling with a disability or illness.